My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 17

"No way." Carth breathed, staring out into the dimness surrounding the small encampment. "Did she say...sewers?" The Undercity was bad enough without going under it. There was no doubt that any accessible routes would be just filled with rakghoul, and he shuddered at the thought. "Horror vids go this way, Sarah."

"So they do." She chuckled, giving him a supportive slap on his back. "Bastila. End of the Republic. Complete domination of the Sith Empire. Duty. All that shit." Her fingers slid beneath his jacket, and she rested the flat of her palm against his lower back. Her touch was warm, soothing, and he felt himself relaxing in spite of his better judgment. "Just think of it this way, Carth..." she whispered, leaning into him, her other hand resting opposite the other, against his belly. "When we're done here, we can play out how porn videos start."

"We've already done that." He muttered, unable to fight the chuckle that rose to his lips. Only in his wildest, and yes, porn fueled dreams had he ever seen what had happened...happen. He wasn't that kind of guy, but she had come on like a charging uxibeast, and admittedly, he hadn't put up that much of a fight for his virtue. "And you have a one tracked mind."

"It distracts me from the idea of going into the Tarisian sewers in a wild scheme to rescue a woman I don't actually remember that well. You're the one who tells me she's so important, and all that...so..." She hooked her fingers in his pants and yanked. She was not physically impressive, but she was damned strong...pulling him off of his feet for a moment. "Buck up there, buddy. Rescue the damsel time."

He sighed, re-balancing himself. She had the most amazing ability to make him feel...well, not safe, because she certainly hadn't tried to downplay the danger, but watched out for. She defused his doubts as if they were bombs, and she was a demolitions expert.

"Lead the way." He waved towards the darkness. She stared into it, craning her head slightly, before nodding and stepping boldly out of the wan pool of light. "Am I the only one who thinks it's insanity to be looking for a teenaged girl in the sewers of Taris?"

"Nope."

"Good. Good. I was afraid I was showing my age. You know, the whole...when I was a kid, we didn't play in the rakghoul infested sewers under Taris's skyscrapers...line. And then I can up the ante by the righteous addition of: 'And I never let my kid do it, either!' line."

"Such an old fart." She replied indulgently, almost...lovingly...and he stared at her for a long, hard moment. It would be so easy to just let it happen, to fall again...to trust enough to let himself go there. No, he didn't know her. And what he didn't really didn't lend itself well to trust and faith. She didn't even truly know who she was, how was he supposed to just ignore that? And she was reckless with him, aggressive and quick to bed him. Hardly a shining example of what he looked for in a friend. A confidant. A lover. This was simply temporary, and that was exactly how he needed to view it. This was a fling, only a fling, something to look back fondly at a much later date, but nothing real. He cared, and would definitely burn up the lines after this was over, to make certain she found her way back into a hospital, and stayed put until she was right again, but nothing more.

"Rakghoul." She stated it easily enough, as if she was pointing out someone's interesting hat, and Carth was dumped firmly back into the here and now. "Don't shoot at it...yet."

He caught a glimpse of it in the shadows, bulky, spiky, hunched over...nothing at all there to even hint that it had once been a person. "Only one." He muttered, more than amazed that she had seen it before he had. But then, he was simply the pilot. She was recon. On second thought, it shouldn't surprise him that her natural abilities and training beat his reliance on a gear kit. The holes in her memories didn't seem to put a dent in her skills.

The rakghoul jumped, spinning to face something coming from the opposite direction, and Carth leveled his blasters warily at it. Sarah echoed the motion, then rolled suddenly out of the way. The shot coursed between the pair of them, and Carth hid the ground with a belated rush. More shots, screams, and he flinched, trying to make himself small in the dubious cover of a battered, empty barrel half buried in the dead ground. Sarah was putting rounds down in a methodical, deliberate pace, utterly calm. It was infectious, and Carth looked over his trusty barrel. Three men coming in their direction...two wore panic on their faces, the third merely looked amused.

Mandalorian. Carth's first instinct was to take the shot, even though it had been four long years since the War had come to a decisive end...in the Republic's favor. And Sarah seemed to have her targets sorted out, the rakghouls coursing the men. Of course, since they were headed right at her, they were leading the rakghouls in. Carth hissed, targeting the same one that she was shooting at. Mass fire on a single target, keep his head, and get the pair of them through this.

The two men moved between them, giving them no attention at all, panicked into a state of fixation focused squarely on the elevator. They were obviously not Mandalorian, some sort of basic mercenary, but Carth was certain of his identification of the third. But at least the Mandalorian was willing to help clean up his own mess, now that he had support, he was laying down his own fire, chewing up the three rakghouls that had been giving chase, and the extra one attracted to the ruckus.

There was a long moment of silence, Sarah braced beside him, her stare unyielding and unflinching as she waited for targets, but none showed. The Mandalorian stood, moving slowly and cautiously in their direction, rifle down, but not slung.

"Thanks for the assist." He offered, giving both Carth and Sarah a slow, measuring stare. He was an older man, easily a couple of decades older than Carth...cropped salt and pepper hair, every inch the grizzled veteran. He was equal to Carth's height, bulky in armor. "Canderous, of Clan Ordo."

"Devid...Sinoa, and my wife, Sarah." It was an old game, one that Dustil had played, mixing up the letters of his name...making an alter ego... the great Republic intelligence agent Udlits Sinoa. His loss hit Carth suddenly, stunning him back into silence, and he gave Sarah a helpless look. She moved in an instant, stepping close, bringing that amazing tranquility with her. Her presence was like a drug, one that sorted out his emptiness, gave it all a good shake, and put it back on a straight path. And that scared the hell out of him...it was one thing to think their relationship was temporary, but if he learned to rely on it, count on it, he'd pay a huge price for it at the end. Again.

"You two aren't from down here." Canderous's pale eyes coasted over the two of them, settling on Carth. Carth just stared back, all too well aware that he couldn't look less like one of the locals if he tried. He hadn't missed a meal until very recently. He was clean. His clothing was clean, intact, high quality. Sarah could possibly pass... she was a little sickly looking, worn down and pale.

"No. We aren't. Stuck here like everyone else is, though." Sarah took the front, leaving Carth to regain his composure. "We're looking for a young Twi'lek and a Wookiee."

"The kid?" The Mandalorian glanced back over his shoulder, "Yeah, saw her a couple of hours ago by the sewer access. Crazy one, that. Easier ways to make a credit, even on Taris." He shrugged. "Head that way..." He made a cutting gesture with his hand, pointing out the direction, "And you'll find the way in. If you're determined to go. Like I said, there are easier ways to make a credit, even on Taris..." He stared at Carth, then nodded. "But neither one of you are down here for a credit. Gotcha. I've given you all I know... good luck, and thanks."


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